Livelihood pushed to sway upland folk in South Cotabato town from planting marijuana

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 29 January) – Authorities are pushing for the implementation of sustainable livelihood programs for residents in upland communities in Tampakan town, South Cotabato province to counter the presence of marijuana plantations in the area.

A habalhabal driver, along with his passenger with an infant, drives through a rough road in Barangay Danlag, Tampakan South Cotabato on 18 January 2020 without fear even if he has sacks of corn loaded on his motorcycle. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

Naravy Duquiatan, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-Region 12 director, said the move is aimed to provide alternative sources of income for residents, especially farmers from the Blaan tribe, and discourage them from cultivating marijuana.

She said they are currently working with the municipal government of Tampakan and other concerned government agencies for the rollout of convergence livelihood programs in parts of Barangay Danlag and the neighboring areas.

“This is an effective way to counter this problem based on our experience in other areas,” she said in a press conference in Tampakan town on Thursday.

Duquiatan cited that the agency had successfully minimized the cultivation of marijuana in some parts of the Cordillera Administrative Region in Luzon by providing farmers there with alternative livelihood.

Through the help of other government agencies, concerned residents ventured into the planting of high value agricultural crops and eradicated the marijuana plantations, she said.

She said some farmers reverted to the illegal activity after realizing the huge gap in their income but relented after being made aware that the cultivation of even a single marijuana plant could put them in jail for life.

In the case of Barangay Danlag, Duquiatan acknowledged that the planned changes could take some time due to the remoteness of the identified marijuana plantation sites.

She said they are also facing security problems as some of the plantations in the area are protected by bandit groups.

Joint elements from the PDEA-12 and the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12 uprooted last Jan. 14 around 13,000 hills of marijuana worth around PHP2.6 million amid a three-hectare corn farm in Sitio Bong Sbang, Barangay Danlag.

The plantation is located near the town’s boundaries with Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat, Malungon in Sarangani and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

Duquiatan, Tampakan Mayor Leonard Escobillo and PRO-12 director, Brig. Gen. Michael John Dubria, led the ceremonial burning on Thursday morning of the uprooted marijuana.

Escobillo expressed full support to planned interventions in Barangay Danlag and assured that the local government will help provide the necessary resources for its implementation.

He said the village has vast idle areas that could be converted into prime agricultural production areas.

“These are fertile areas that are very much suitable for various crops,” the mayor said.

Aside from bringing in livelihood projects, Dubria said the local government may also push for the development of potential tourist attractions in the area.

He said the mountainous parts of Danlag could offer “instagrammable” views that might attract tourists.

“Once we develop these areas, the marijuana plantations there will just eventually cease to exist,” he said. (MindaNews)